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Restorative Congregations

In 2005, Synod first urged churches to employ restorative justice practices in their contexts. Applied to churches, the restorative approach is a way of ministry and congregational life that encourages grace AND truth living by creating space to build up relationships while naming important issues, taking those issues seriously, and moving forward together in life and mission. Since their introduction, Christian Reformed communities have found the framework of restorative practices to be biblically sound and practically useful to avoid procedural mistakes, prevent relational hurt, address challenging issues, repair broken relationships, and build stronger communities.

Restorative Practices logo

The restorative framework and related practices have served to…

  • Help churches develop a culture that practically and intentionally lives into the “one another” command.  
  • Help churches become less conflict-averse and more confident addressing challenging issues and strained relationships. 
  • Help Christians experiencing conflict to pursue biblical reconciliation. 
  • Help churches learn about contentious issues (e.g. Human Sexuality Report, women in church office, applied biblical justice).
  • Help churches express grief and name loss in order to find healing together in Christ (e.g. following the death or departure of a beloved ministry leader, the unexpected end of a defining ministry or program, or a painful Article 17 separation).
  • Help churches discern and make decisions about difficult issues (e.g. whether to close or reimagine our church, how to respond to the Human Sexuality Report, how to address a significant ministry opportunity or challenge).
  • Help councils, Bible studies, youth groups, Sunday schools, and other church meetings invite better participation and adopt more collaborative outcomes.

To see what we mean by “grace and truth living” and to get a glimpse of the framework in action, watch this video about the restorative emphasis on moving “up and to the right.” 

Restorative Practices Grid

What Thrive can offer:

  1. Customized restorative process. Every congregation and situation is unique. We help you develop a plan for incorporating a restorative framework into how your council addresses the issue. Our most common customized approaches include 
    1. leadership training
    2. congregational meetings
    3. multi-week small groups
    4. 2-day intensive discernment retreats and/or 
    5. comprehensive discernment and decision-making pathways for congregations. 
  2. A 3-hour virtual, interactive, listening circle facilitator training. In this training, you’ll learn about one of the basic tools of a restorative approach, listening circles, and how to use them in your customized restorative process. 
  3. In depth training in restorative practice: 
    • Becoming a Restorative Congregation is a 2-day, in-person training that equips you to design and facilitate proactive listening circles for a variety of topics and occasions. You’ll also learn how to incorporate restorative practices to enrich interpersonal relationships, small groups, teams, congregational life, and more. 
    • Restorative Conferencing in Congregations is a 2-day, in-person training that will equip you to facilitate restorative practices in higher-level conflicts in your church and community. 
  4. Direct conflict consultation. We offer a facilitated, restorative process to help conflicted parties in congregations pursue biblical reconciliation by helping them talk about what happened, how they were affected, and what they need to move forward.

You can read the entire report from the Committee to Study Restorative Justice (available as a PDF download). 

Learn More

Wondering what’s right for you or your church and how to move forward? We’d love to chat! Meet with an experienced facilitator to see how this approach might fit your church. There’s no cost, and no obligation.